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3/20/2012Texas Town Ignores Anti-Red Light Camera Petition
Texas activists plan to fight back after Port Lavaca refuses to put anti-red light camera initiative to a public vote.
The city council in Port Lavaca, Texas voted unanimously last week to ignore the certified request from its residents to hold a public vote on whether the red light camera program should continue. After meeting behind closed doors, the council made the decision to side with Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company that operates the cameras. Redflex filed suit on March 4 to block the election, although the company disguised its involvement in papers filed with the Calhoun County court.
"The Texas Traffic Safety Coalition hereby brings this original petition for declaratory judgment against defendant the city of Port Lavaca and shows as follows," the lawsuit began. "Plaintiff Texas Traffic Safety Coalition (hereinafter 'TTSC') is a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the state of Texas. TTSC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to make the roads and intersections in the state of Texas safer for drivers, passengers and pedestrians."
As TheNewspaper reported last year, the Texas Traffic Safety Coalition incorporation papers filed with the Texas secretary of state named three directors: David Goldenberg, Gregory Goldner and David Smolensky. It is not a grassroots group. In fact, all three of those individuals are officers of Resolute Consulting, a public relations firm retained by Redflex. This arrangement allows Redflex to disguise its involvement in the suit.
Redflex argues that the referendum must be rejected because the topic of red light cameras is not a subject matter that can be put to the judgment of voters as a matter that affects public safety, health, peace and welfare in the city. Redflex also argued that the red light camera ordinance "affects the city budget" and therefore cannot be put to a vote.
"In the event the ordinance was repealed as directed by the petition... the city would be forced to breach its contract with its vendor resulting in significant legal liability greatly exceeding $1,000,000," Redflex attorney Matthew R. Beatty argued. "Funding for that liability and costs associated therewith, such as attorneys' fees and court costs, would come directly from the city's budget handcuffing its ability to meet other budgetary obligations and putting the city in a perilous financial condition."
Initiative sponsor Carl Baugh, director of Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras, has lined up legal representation and intends to fight the city in court.
"This is no longer about red light cameras, this is about the people's right to petition their government and participate in the political process," Baugh said in a statement Sunday. "If the city is allowed to unilaterally deny our rights for a red light camera petition without recourse, what rights will they deny us next?"
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